Manchester United captain Harry Maguire thinks their “great belief and character” will see them through Tuesday’s decisive game with RB Leipzig and into the Champions League knockouts.
After losing 3-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain on matchday five, United know a point in Germany will be enough to seal their place in the last 16, while they could still finish top of Group H if PSG do not beat Istanbul Basaksehir.
The Red Devils thrashed Leipzig 5-0 at Old Trafford but know they will face a stern test against Julian Nagelsmann’s side, who drew 3-3 with European champions Bayern Munich last weekend.
United have been in exceptional form on their travels, winning a club-record eight in a row in the Premier League, including at West Ham on Saturday when they fought from 1-0 down to win 3-1.
Still, United have lost each of their previous two away games to German opposition in the Champions League and have fallen behind in six of their past eight away matches in all competitions, a fact that highlights both their inability to take control of matches and their mental resolve.
Maguire has noticed an improvement in their mentality in his time at the club and is determined to go to Leipzig and prove it, even as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is without injured forwards Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial.
“We want to win the game. We’re not going to sit back,” he said. “We went into the PSG game and on another day could have won it. We created three or four very good chances to win that game. It wasn’t to be and we take ourselves into the final game of the group.
“As players, we feel that progression. From when I first joined the club I feel it’s been steady but we’re working up a ladder and we keep improving. We’re getting that consistency in games more, the belief that we can go and win games is a lot better than when I first joined.
“I believe we’re always going to score goals and create chances, we have so much talent and goalscorers in the team. When we go 1-0 down, to come back shows great belief and character, but it’s important we don’t make mistakes to concede another goal. We have to give our forwards the best opportunity to go and win games.”
Maguire pointed to the final day of last season’s Premier League, when United won 2-0 at Leicester City to seal Champions League qualification, as proof they can produce when it matters most.
“I joined this club to play in the biggest games possible. Your big players step up in the biggest games so for sure I think that’s a statement we’ve shown over the years that the big players step up in the big games,” he said.
“Similar to Leicester last season when we had to get a result to reach the Champions League – we managed to do that, so we will take confidence from that, we feel ready and prepared and we’re looking forward to it.
“As a group of players we fully expect to get out of the group. It’s the last game, we’re in a good position, we’re confident and we look forward to the game. The one thing we can do is look after the performance and normally the performance looks after the result.”
Manager Solskjaer, meanwhile, believes it is in keeping with United’s history to have reached the final matchday knowing their fate is not yet secure.
“They’re Man United players because they have qualities we’ve looked for,” he said. “I’m sure [Tuesday] will prove that’s the reason why they’re here. They’ll show it.
“The character of the group is getting better and better and we’re looking forward to the game.
“It’s something we want, games like this. It’s a tradition for Man United. We never make it easy for ourselves. We look at the game against Istanbul [Basaksehir], where we could have taken three points, but that’s just the way we do things.
“We do make it hard for ourselves, that’s been the case since I played and that’s a long, long time ago.”